Truck safety a matter of public interest

OTTAWA — The majority of Canadians don’t think four-wheelers know how to share the road with trucks and it’ll take better education to remedy the situation.

In a poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), the feeling across the country was that driver training programs for passenger vehicles do not provide adequate education about sharing the road with large trucks.

The survey conducted in September and October last year found that 62.4 percent of respondents did not believe training is adequate. Another 20.2 percent of respondents simply answered they did not know whether training is adequate or not.

“Perhaps not surprisingly, a majority of the respondents (60.2 percent) supported requirements to test drivers of passenger cars to see if they know how to safely share the road with large trucks before obtaining a driver’s licence,” notes Ward Vanlaar, vice-president of research at TIRF.

These results of the poll appear in The Road Safety Monitor 2009: Large Trucks in Canada, which was sponsored by the Brewers Association of Canada, Transport Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance. The annual public opinion poll, developed and conducted by TIRF, was completed by 1,200 Canadian drivers.

When asked about safe driving practices when sharing the road with a large truck, 64.2 percent of respondents believed that they knew the minimum distance a driver should leave between their vehicle and a large truck. Another 77.2 percent of respondents also answered that they knew where the truck driver’s blind spots are.

“What was unexpected was that a reasonably large number of Canadians admit they actually do not know about these safe driving practices (35.8 percent and 22.8 percent, respectively),” says Vanlaar. “In light of these findings, perhaps it should not be surprising that so many Canadians believe driver training for sharing the road with large trucks is inadequate.”

This concern over training adequacy may be warranted since the number of fatal collisions has not changed much between 2000 and 2006, suggesting a plateau has been reached, according to TIRF.

While fatal collisions have remained relatively static, according to the research firm, the number of injury crashes involving large trucks increased between 2001 and 2005 from 7,802 to 9,366.

“Despite a slight decrease in 2006 to 9,066 injury crashes, the problem seems to be more pronounced among certain types of large trucks,” says Vanlaar. “More annual data are needed to confirm whether this decrease in 2006 will continue in the future.”

When asked about concerns regarding large trucks, Canadian drivers are concerned with driver fatigue and long hours of service the most at 69.7 percent, vehicles not meeting safety standards at 67.1 percent, and speeding at 63.8 percent.

Vanlaar notes that while concern is warranted, both government agencies and industry have been taking steps to address these concerns. Among those surveyed, EOBRs received the greatest support for truck safety measures.

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